Sunday, May 27, 2007

Burberry = Taco Bell; math fun

Burberry is one of the most incredible designer brands ever. I say this not in some deep reverence to the brand or anything but because they have to be the biggest crooks. They basically have made one design pattern and apply it to all their clothing...and people love it. I mean at some point ya sorta gotta make other designs.

I know at this point someone is going to point out that "Hey Shakes, they make their trademark plaid design in other colors!" Whatever stupid muppet. It's gotten to the point that it makes me sick when you see guys wearing Burberry ties around. It's one thing to wear name brands and have the name barely noticeable (if at all)....that's called classy...but having high end names pasted everywhere is a bit crass. It's kinda like the Hugo Boss syndrome. For such a top shelf designer why do they ruin it by making these loud shirts that has their named plastered over it in 120 point font? It's these very shirts that find their way in discount bins at Marshalls and Filene's Basement where the People of New Jersey then celebrate in its full glory. Barf.

Burberry is different because they don't even attempt to change their design. The beige background with black and red stripes is almost like the approved attired for city residents to wear while visiting the MoMa.

As I was walking 30 blocks to the in the sweltering sun today while counting the number of Indians I passed (nearly a family per every block!) I started wondering what other company has been able to go sooo far with such little innovation.

The answer: Taco Bell.

Taco Bell is nutso. The border is definitely in order. I can't think of one food joint that has gotten more people excited over the various iterations of 8 food ingredients. Each week TB seems to unleash a new food structure that turns the world on its head. We salute you taco bell. The staggering thing is that people like me proceed to get excited about such things.

Roughly speaking the 8 ingredients (aka the "Holy 8" or "Great 8") are as follows:
1) tortilla (shell or wrap)
2) brown beans
3) ground beef
4) chicken
5) lettuce
6) cheese
7) tomatoes
8) sour cream

Now mathematically speaking there are a finite number of combinations that these 8 items can make. Assuming that a menu item at least requires 3 items, the number of distinct permutations ("8 Choose 3") is shown from my friendly schematic I put to the side. (please note how my "fig. 1" makes it look like it's some ancient manuscipt written my Galileo). So there is a logical end to this nonstop bonanza

Now I know a lot of people are thinking the same thing, what about Quesadillas? They only utilize two items, burritos and cheese. This quandary of course is known in mathematical circles as the Quesadilla Exception (QE). Since that is really the only 2 item combination we should really be more precise about things So really to be more precise we should add up all the distinct 3 item combinations with the 4 item combos with the 5 items combos.....and so on and so forth until we reach 8, and then add the QE.

Using a handy dandy Excel spreadsheet, which I've shown some of the outputs in (fig. 2), we can see that the answer is 220.

Thus once TB's menu is mathematically limited to 220 possible items....unless of course they add another item to the Holy 8. But math can't predict such anomalies...although it can get pretty close.

In conclusion I think I have made 3 valid points:
1) A designer at Burberry's has the easiest job known to man. Just take the same fashion design and apply it over and over again.

2) Taco Bell, much like the aforementioned Burberry's, also repackages the same thing over and over again
3) Math is both exciting and fun in a social context.

Case closed.

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